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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 2—Health

2. TANGI UTIKERE (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has he seen on the implementation of the Budget 2019 mental health package?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Health): Last Friday, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s (DPMC) Implementation Unit released their mid-term review of the landmark $1.9 billion investment this Government has made in the mental health system in 2019. I’m pleased to say that the report found most of the initiatives funded by the Government are on track to be completed by 2023-2024. The report’s findings are an enormous credit to those working at the coalface of mental health and in the support agencies, including the Ministry of Health. In fact, just one item I can report progress on is that we have added 663 fulltime-equivalent front-line roles in just the last two years. However, no one should underestimate the challenge in building up from an incredibly low base. There is a long way to go to have the sort of mental health system that New Zealanders expect and deserve.

Tangi Utikere: What are some of the key findings in that report?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Some of the key findings are, firstly, that the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission is now fully operational; more than 200 GP sites are now offering integrated primary mental health and addiction services to more than 11,000 people a month and providing coverage for an enrolled population of 1.5 million Kiwis; telehealth capacity has been increased by 58,000 contacts a year; 18 services tailored for young people are fully or partially operational across 14 DHB areas; and front-line staffing has increased across New Zealand, including in the regions encompassing hospital emergency departments, services to mothers and their whānau, and forensic mental health. There is much more in the report and much more to do, and I would encourage all members to read it on the DPMC website.

Tangi Utikere: Did the report identify any areas for improvement?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes. When it comes to infrastructure, the Ministry of Health has struggled to achieve as much as this Government would have liked. We’ve taken immediate steps to address that finding in the report. That compares to the complete failure of investment by the previous Government in any health infrastructure at all. The Ministry of Health, however, can now provide DHBs with funding for the planning, design, and consenting of infrastructure projects so they can be fast-tracked. An assurance group chaired by Professor Judy McGregor and including those with lived experience has now been established to oversee the implementation of the rest of the programme. We’re also simplifying overall infrastructure planning. Ultimately, like in so many parts of the health system, this is what happens when there is a sustained under-investment in health infrastructure for nine long years, including not one cent being invested in 2015 or 2016.

Matt Doocey: When the Minister championed the increase of mental health workers, what did his independent review say about the 40 percent of mental health workers who had resigned, from 634 a year to 875 over the last three years?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There is no question that in the health sector generally there are major workforce challenges, and that is because, as I have told this House before, for 10 years the previous Government turned its back on the health sector, failed to invest, failed to support, neglected every major health issue that this country faced, and this Government is now cleaning up the mess.

Matt Doocey: Point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked what the report said.

SPEAKER: And the member added extraneous material to it, and therefore I’m not going to push the Minister to be more exact.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Point of order. In respect of extraneous material, I wonder if you could check the last two answers to supplementary questions, when you get a chance, for their compliance with Standing Orders 396(2)(a) and (b)?

SPEAKER: I’m happy to check and I will do that, but I will sort of remind the member that when there are political questions asked, there is likely to be that sort of response.